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Updated: April 15, 2024 Guest Column

Self-leadership: The key to unlocking your company’s full potential

If you have followed my column, you’ve likely noticed a central theme focused on self-leadership and the importance of clearing the inner obstacles impeding a leader’s true potential. Whether it's diving into the results of a Korn Ferry or a Leadership360 evaluation, or if it’s simply gut-level feedback a leader senses, conflict resolution or avoidance is always in the mix. How a leader handles conflict resolution is a good indicator of their effectiveness.

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Bob Martel is a professional hypnotist, empowerment coach, and author of several books, including "I Am Sleeping Now." Reach Bob at Positive Results Hypnosis in Leominster, or via email at

Leaders who struggle with handling conflict may be limiting themselves and their team in significant ways, both personally and professionally. If there are hidden self-limiting beliefs about conflicts, there is a corresponding associated cost, thus the need for an empowering belief enabling growth. One of the hidden costs of inadequacy in conflict resolution? Good people eventually leave.

Effective leadership starts from within, and our life experiences impact our ability to bring our best game to life. How a CEO or any leader responds to conflict sets the tone for and either limits or leverages disagreement. Some leaders welcome healthy conflict while others avoid it at all costs.

Leaders who struggle with conflict resolution have self-limiting beliefs and fears often rooted in childhood. Perhaps we witnessed our parents having explosive arguments and internalized the belief that conflict is dangerous ground. Or, maybe we experienced rejection when trying to assert ourselves, leading us to believe that voicing disagreement will result in painful consequences. These formative experiences can cause us to develop an unhealthy avoidance of conflict or a combative approach to dealing with differences.

We must do the inner work to uncover and heal these deep-seated beliefs and patterns. We must shine the light of mindfulness on our knee-jerk reactions to conflict and examine their childhood roots with compassion. At the same time, we need to develop new, more constructive beliefs and responses. We can start to see conflict as an opportunity for connection, creativity, and growth rather than as a threat. We can learn to approach disagreements with curiosity, respect, and an openness to others' perspectives. Consider these points:

• Avoiding conflict is costly; we miss out on valuable opportunities to learn about ourselves, our triggers, and our areas for improvement.

• A leader who avoids conflict may struggle to make difficult decisions, give critical feedback, or hold others accountable. This can lead to a culture of mediocrity, disengagement, and even resentment among those who crave clear expectations and fair treatment.

• A leader who is uncomfortable with conflict may have difficulty fostering a culture of innovation and creativity.

So, what might a more empowering belief around conflict look like?

One powerful reframe is to view conflict as an opportunity for growth, connection, and positive change. A leader can choose to approach conflict with curiosity, respect, and a willingness to learn, and to champion the best outcome.

Leaders who hold this more empowering belief are more willing to have courageous conversations. They foster a culture of psychological safety, where team members are empowered to bring their full selves to work.

This inner work is not easy, but it is essential for any leader who wants to create a better, more engaging culture. As we develop greater mastery in resolving both inner and outer conflicts, we naturally become more confident, mentally flexible, and emotionally resilient leaders. Doing the inner work of self-leadership allows us to show up as our wisest, most caring, and most effective selves. When we are self-aware individuals, there's no limit to the positive impact we can have as leaders.

I’ve prepared a short report for readers who give me feedback on this article. It teaches you self-hypnosis for reflecting on your beliefs regarding conflicts, how you want to handle them, and the benefits of embracing conflict in an emotionally intelligent way.

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